Ribavirin for respiratory syncytial virus bronchiolitis reduced the risk of asthma and allergen sensitization


Dr Bor-Luen Chiang, Department of Pediatrics, National Taiwan University Hospital, #7, Chung-Shan South Road, Taipei 100, Taiwan, Republic of China
Tel.: +886 2 2312 3456 ext. 7302
Fax: +886 2 2397 2031
E-mail: gicmbor@ha.mc.ntu.edu.tw


Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) bronchiolitis in early life is a risk factor for later development of asthma and atopy. Ribavirin is the only effective drug currently available against acute RSV bronchiolitis. However, the long-term effects of ribavirin remain unclear. We investigated a cohort of children hospitalized with RSV bronchiolitis from when they were under 2 yr old until they reached a mean age of 6.2 yr. In total, we enrolled 175 children in this study. Both the group treated with ribavirin and the group not treated with ribavirin included high-risk young children with congenital heart disease or chronic lung disease. Their respective age-matched controls, that we labeled groups A and B, both without ribavirin treatment, consisted of previously healthy subjects. Wheezing was either verified by physicians or estimated by a questionnaire. Allergen sensitization was judged by serum allergen-specific IgE levels. The cumulative incidence of physician-diagnosed asthma or recurrent wheezing in the ribavirin group (15%) was significantly lower than its incidence in the non-ribavirin-treated group (34%, p = 0.049), and in the control A group (43%, p = 0.005). Allergen sensitization was also least frequent in the ribavirin group. Ribavirin therapy was an independent factor in reducing the risk of developing asthma, asthma/recurrent wheezing, and sensitization to D. pteronyssinus/D. farinae. The long-term value of ribavirin for acute RSV bronchiolitis and its underlying mechanisms deserves further research.